Stupid Banker of the Day: HSBC’s Kevin Bourne

May 1, 2009

European bank HSBC’s dalliance in the U.S. subprime bubble cost its shareholders more than $15 billion in losses. So you might think the bank would be wary of wandering into the next financial bubble — that is the green one. But once again, you would be wrong to apply common sense to today’s financial industry.

Reuters reports today that a large U.S. pension fund is interested in investing in companies in HSBC’s Climate Change Market Index. HSBC equities chief Kevin Bourne told Reuters,

“It doesn’t matter if investors believe in climate change or not, they know it’s a good investment category.”

Apparently, investing in companies that provide tangible value to society is so old-school. It seems to have  been replaced by getting in while the getting is good and getting out before the bubble bursts. But few, including HSBC, seem to have a good track record in that regard.

Bourne added,

“But investors are global and if they can’t find your company, they can’t lend their money to you. The tough question is how to let investors know that you’re involved in climate change.”

HSBC seems not to view its challenge as asking whether investing in dubious climate change schemes is appropriate so much as it is jumping over that due diligence question and onto figuring out how to find the next sucker.

Moving past HSBC’s investment bubble recidivism, there is the question of the unnamed pension fund willing to gamble its assets on climate change scams.

While Bourne would not name the pension fund, he did indicate to Reuters that it was among the four largest: either the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, California Public Employees Retirement System, State of New York Employees’ Retirement System, or the Florida Retirement System.

So the money going into HSBC ‘s green bubble is not that of some private, cowboy investment group; it’s the taxpayer money intended for California, New York or Florida public sector retirees.

Aside from the direct risk of investing in bubbles, there’s the innocent bystander effect. The ongoing subprime bubble-caused financial crisis has already cost state pension funds an estimated $1.3 trillion.The two California public employee retirement systems have so far lost a combined $110 billion — even though the two were never heavily invested in them in the first place. New York and Florida public employee funds have taken similar losses.

The problematic intersection of state pensions funds and global warming has been preliminarily explored in the report, “Pensions in Peril.”

Switching metaphors, maybe Kevin Bourne, HSBC and the rest of the fast-talking, but slow-witted Wall Street crowd ought to step back from, and reconsider pressing the handle that will cause the green vortex that will flush hard-earned taxayer and investor money down the toilet again.

When the green bubble bursts, will there be any money left to pay state retirees?

One Response to “Stupid Banker of the Day: HSBC’s Kevin Bourne”

  1. geophys55 Says:

    Climate Change investing worked out quite well for Al.

    Me, I invested in solid companies with good track records and I’m more than 30% in the hole. (Pride prevents me from stating the true figure)

    Logic tells us that I should be better off.

    Logic is a buch of pretty flowers…that smell bad!


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